I have nothing this week for Friday's Forgotten Book simply because I have not read anything this week that might qualify as "Forgotten." Instead, here's a review of Max Allan Collins' latest.
Quarry's Blood by Max Allan Collins (2022)
Max Allan Collins' hitman Quarry began to take root in 1971 when Collins was attending the University of Iowa Writers Workshop; it took some two years for Collins to finish the first book. After several years, the book was eventually accepted an published by Berkley as a paperback original, The Broker, along with a request for three follow-ups. There Quarry sat for some ten years until Collins revisited the character in Primary Target (1987). And that was it...until nearly twenty years later, when Hard Case Crime publisher Charles Ardai queried Collins about another Quarry book. The result was The Last Quarry (2006), meant to be a coda for the series in which Quarry retired. But the popularity of the character, which also led to a feature film and a television series, combined with Ardai's gentle (?) nudging for more adventures, as well as Collins' continued interest in the character, led to the reprinting and retitling of the first five novels, as well as an additional eight novels and one graphic novel -- all positioned chronologically before The Last Quarry -- and all published by Hard Case Crime. Still, The Last Quarry remained the final book in the series...until now. Quarry's Blood takes the hero to 2021 when Quarry is nearly seventy years old and long retired.
Quarry had been a sniper in Vietnam and it turned out that this was something he was really good at -- killing people, or, at least, killing Viet Cong who were out to kill him, did not bother him at all. After being released from the army, he returned home to the wife he had married shortly before being going overseas. What he found was his wife in bed with another man. The next day, he went to where the garage where the man was working under a car. Quarry kicked the jack out from under the car, crushing him. The case garnered a lot of attention: here was a genuine war hero who avenged his wife's infidelity by killing her lover. Somehow Quarry was acquitted. Sometime later, the man known as the Broker, a middle man who arranged killings, approached Quarry and got him to work for him as a hitman. Eventually Quarry and the Broker parted ways, violently, and Quarry began working for some of the Broker's intended victims, eliminating other hitmen as well as those who had paid for the hit. Quarry eventually retired to the Minnesota woods where he married the intended target of The Last Quarry and quietly ran a vacation lodge where the two lived quite happily for some fifteen years until his wife died suddenly from Covid. Quarry continued his quiet lifestyle, thankful for the decade and a half with his wife and raging internally at her death,
That's the basic back story.
The book begins back in 1981 in Biloxi, where Quarry reconnects a one-time stripper and the widow of the owner of a strip joint. Luann had taken over the club and had turned into a legitimate business -- paying the girl's a decent wage, treating them properly, allowing no prostitution, and ensuring their safety from handsy customers. Thing were going well. The Quarry found out that a hit had been ordered on Luann so he travelled to Biloxi to stop it. A lot of blood and some passionate sex later, Quarry goes back north, his business finished. For a while he kept in sporadic touch with Luann but eventually both stopped writing.
Fast forward to 2021 and there's a knock on Quarry's door. It's an attractive blonde woman in her mid-forties. Her name is Susan Breedlove and she is a writer of true crime books. In fact, she had written a well-researched book about Quarry and is now writing a sequel.
Now, here's where it gets tricky and deviates from the earlier novels. It turns out that all the earlier novels about Quarry were actually memoirs written by Quarry and published under another name, with much (or maybe not) of the actual details changed to protect Quarry's identity. The early books in the series formed the bedrock of Susan's research for the first book. She now wanted to concentrate on his later career for the sequel. Oh, and Susan was actually Quarry's unknown daughter from his liaison with Luann so many years ago. And Quarry actually owned a copy of the first book about him that Susan wrote. The reader might not be faulted for believing this final (?) book in the series was some sort of parody, but au contraire.
It seems that a hit has been put out on Quarry but the assassins underestimated the old man who was their intended victim. The Susan gets kidnapped my more hitmen in an attempt to lure Quarry to them. Things did not turn out so well for these fellows either. To determine who has it out for Quarry, he and Susan have to go back into Quarry's past scores. This leads them to a lot of unsavory places -- rough sex clubs, casinos, and pornographic publications. And a lot of violence and geriatric sex (don't knock it). Age may have mellowed Quarry but it did not dull his instincts. This Quarry may be kinder, more humorous, and (perhaps) wiser, but the hard edge for survival still exists.
Once you accept that Quarry's life is an open book(s), so to speak, and his reaction to unexpected fatherhood, you are in for an exciting and well-plotted read with a twist of an ending.
Collins is one of the very best mystery and crime writers working today. He doesn't disappoint.